After an attack by some schoolmates, Daniel-San and Mr. Miyagi hope to keep the peace by visiting the Cobra Kai dojo where his attackers train. As you are watching this clip, ask yourself, what is right with this picture?
Strengths of Mr. Miyagi
At the heart of The Karate Kid is the seeming conflict between the pursuit of excellence and strengths of temperance and of humanity.
In Mr. Miyagi we see the complete package. He is the most capable martial artist in the film, displaying the honed edge of skill that results from a lifetime of perseverance through the practice of his art. He is also the most humane character in the film and the quickest to forgive the Cobra Kai instructor even in the midst of his own anger. While the instructor insults and antagonizes Mr. Miyagi, this seasoned veteran of life remains calm and patient.
Strengths of Daniel-San
Although Daniel-San appears to be cowering behind Mr. Miyagi, he taps into his courage and boldly faces his recent attackers. By observing Mr. Miyagi, Daniel-san also has the opportunity to expands his perspective in the different ways in which one can approach conflict. Throughout the film Daniel-San learns like lessons from his mentor, Mr. Miyagi.
Strengths of the Cobra Kai
The villains in this movie are portrayed as spoiled rich kids studying martial arts under a cruel but effective sensei. Make no mistake, students of the Cobra Kai dojo display great strength in the realm of transcendence and their appreciation of raw fighting ability. In the competitive martial arts world, these are valued strengths.
The Cobra Kai is a dojo that proves capable of producing skilled athletes. The students who study here may have to put up with a rough and unforgiving instructor, but on the street and in school, they certainly don’t have to fear bullying; they develop discipline which is a tremendous asset in all areas of life. The Cobra Kai also display clear teamwork, finding within one another a sense of belonging and social duty.
Unfortunately, the Cobra Kai fail to acknowledge several other forms of strength, particularly strengths of temperance, of tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness. For all of the shouts of “Fear does not exist in this dojo,” the courage put on display by the Cobra Kai is more of a bluff than it is real bravery. Devotion to excellence, admiration of raw physical strength is simply not enough to make a complete person, or even a complete and well rounded fighter.
While the teamwork and devotion to excellence that Cobra Kai practice is admirable, “No mercy” is, ultimately, not a wise survival strategy and not a motto befitting someone whose strengths are more well rounded. The ultimate gift for the Cobra Kai would be to recognize mercy as a strength in itself.